KINGSVILLE, ONT — Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford has been challenging the media of late: Give him information on which of his candidates have worked with "Snowbird" — his nickname for a PC political operative twice convicted of fraud who's now linked with a stolen data scandal — and he'll take immediate action.
QP Briefing has learned his party has known for months that Snover Dhillon worked for Beaches–East York PC candidate Sarah Mallo, and while an internal party committee had debated revoking her nomination because of the association, it ultimately voted against doing so at a February meeting.
Asked about the issue Wednesday at a media event in rural southwestern Ontario, Ford thanked QP Briefing for the question and said he'd address the issue immediately.
"Once new revelations come to us, we'll sit down, just like I did with the Brampton East candidate," he said, referring to another PC candidate who worked with Dhillon and who resigned as a candidate last week, citing allegations against him concerning a theft of data from the company that runs the 407 toll highway.
"We'll address it immediately," Ford continued. "We won't tolerate anything along those lines, as we did with the Brampton East candidate. We acted immediately, we'll continue to act immediately."
Prominent party sources with knowledge of the events concerning Beaches—East York, including the deliberations of the PC nominations committee, say Mallo hired him as an organizer before she was acclaimed in the east Toronto riding last September.
Their relationship continued into early 2018, when the issue came to the attention of the local riding association and the party after cheques Dhillon had written to a campaign manager hired to work for Mallo had bounced and the campaign manager came calling for the payment he was owed, sources say.
In February, the issue went before the nominations committee, which was concerned about Dhillon's involvement with Mallo, sources say. By that time, his involvement in two nomination races where there had been allegations of ballot-box stuffing (Hamilton West–Ancaster–Dundas and Ottawa West–Nepean) was well-known.
Mallo was kept on as a candidate, in part, because she was acclaimed and there was no other candidate seeking to represent the riding at that time, sources said.
A police investigation into alleged fraud in the Hamilton riding was underway, and continues at this time.
QP Briefing reported at the time of the committee meeting that Beaches–East York was one of six ridings being considered by the committee, which ultimately decided to vacate the results in only two. One source noted that TVO host Steve Paikin had also tweeted that Beaches–East York was among the ridings under scrutiny.
have been working the phones and have learned the @OntarioPCParty looked at irregularities in 5 ridings (newmarket-aurora, beaches-east york, brampton north, ottawa west-nepean, & scarborough centre) but only demanded new nominations in the latter 2. #onpoli
— Steve Paikin (@spaikin) February 10, 2018
Another source, a Tory organizer with roots in the Indo-Canadian community in Mississauga and Brampton, told QP Briefing that Dhillon made no secret of working on Mallo's campaign. "Snover told everybody. Snover's the kind of guy, he actually boasted about this," the source said.
Ford has repeatedly said he does not know Dhillon, explaining that there are photos of the two of them together because he takes photos with everyone. Instead, he has suggested Dhillon is one of former PC Leader Patrick Brown's "people," and suggested reporters contact Brown.
Dhillon has two convictions for fraud in Toronto and York Region dating back to 2011, police records show.
Dhillon is also linked with a continuing controversy over data allegedly stolen from the company that runs the 407 toll highway. Simmer Sandhu — who worked for the company that runs the highway — resigned as a PC candidate last week after the company alerted the public to the data theft. The National Post has published a story that said the data had been accessed by Dhillon.
QP Briefing has reported on leaked PC emails that connected Dhillon to a settlement proposal concerning his alleged activities in a Hamilton-area nomination race that one senior Tory described as "illegal." QPB has also reported on Dhillon's involvement in a controversial loan arrangement between former PC candidate Jass Johal and Brown.
QP Briefing's sources say Dhillon worked on a number of PC nomination campaigns Some of the candidates he worked with have since had their nominations voided by the party after public allegations of electoral misconduct. In other cases, Dhillon appeared at nomination contests, but did not seem to be actively involved in the vote.
The NDP announced Wednesday it has asked Elections Ontario to request investigations into 12 different PC campaigns "to determine if any of the illegally obtained data has been used in any way by these candidates and campaigns."
The party said it identified the campaigns based on media reports on "discrepancies" in their nomination processes, and Beaches–East York is among them. However, QP Briefing has no evidence to suggest Mallo had any connection to the alleged data theft.
Mallo has not responded to calls and emails from QP Briefing requesting comment. Dhillon has also not responded to messages requesting comment. This story will be updated with any responses.
Update: Patrick Brown responded to a media request Wednesday afternoon, shortly after this story was first published. He said he did not introduce Dhillon to Mallo and said he would not have recommended hiring him to work on her campaign.
-with files from Christopher Reynolds